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and very rarely ever needs repairs, once you fix them." - Dan/Panther

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Notes on Payphone Locks

Started by shortrackskater, May 21, 2016, 07:15:59 PM

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Thanks again, everyone. Thanks for the link TelePlay.
Good news!
I bought a small cutting wheel, and cut it smaller with tin snips, then rounded it out with a file.
I then attached my modified wheel to my DeWalt cordless driver and grind around the mushroomed part of the screw and then, more importantly, cut a deeper slot in it. FINALLY got the thing to screw in.
The lidless can came out with not much effort: I just gently pulled the top part side to side, then I used a pain can opener and gently pried the bottom just over the edge of the lower part of the case. I sprayed some WD40 on that lower part and pulled it out with my hands. No damage to the can.
I'll remove the lock now. I guess I should post a different subject of the lock.
It is a 10-L  Looks old as heck.
Mark J.

Stan S

It's impossible to manufacture a key for a 10L lock. A 10L lock has both pins and levers. 10L key blanks were proprietary even when they were being manufactured. The blanks probably haven't been made for 40 years.

To make a 10L lock useful you have to re-manufacture THE LOCK to match whatever 10L key can be found. If you're lucky you find two keys with matching numbers.

Ask questions about how the lock was rebuilt. Below is a posting I made a while back.

Quote from: Stan S on March 16, 2016, 09:23:42 AM

I only know of two individuals who properly re-leavered 10L locks in the past. All the proper pins and ALL the properly numbered leavers. Locks opened and closed as smooth as silk. Unfortunately, the best of these two craftsman passed away. His name was Paul Vaverchak. The second best guy got lazy and doesn't do them anymore-me.

The re-leavered locks I see today are junk. Most of the time they only have one or two leavers with the slots widened out. Then a washer and a coil spring are slid over the post on top of the leavers to put backwards pressure on them. If the orphaned key (keys) they used don't match the pins, they just dump the pins in the garbage. Then they pop the cover back on and it's off to Ebay. PURE CRAP!

If the key and the lock number don't match, unless you have xray vision you don't know what you're getting and you probably don't want it!


So is reply #16 incorrect?
Is there any replacement available that will work? I just want to be able to lock it, and don't care how old or new the lock is.
Mark J.

Stan S

There aren't any replacements.

Original 10L locks with keys can be found. Be prepared to spend probably $60 for one.

There are plenty of rebuilt 10L locks on Ebay. If the lock has been opened it's been rebuilt.
Ask if the pins are still in the lock and if it has the proper number of leavers.

Some sellers dump all the pins and leavers out of the locks. Any key that fits in the keyway (or a screw driver) will open and close those locks. All depends on what you'll be happy with.


I just renamed this topic and Mark is going to carry on here in this topic with his restoration of this payphone.



Thanks Terry!
I'm happy. I'll carry on here. I just spent some time fixing the upper lock which literally fell apart when I removed it! Someone ground the rivets out apparently and the keyhole was turned downward so my new 29s key wouldn't fit. I somehow got it back together and screwed it back in. Now the key and lock work! Next I cleaned the inside of the lower part once I got the cash box out. There was one dime jammed in there and it wasn't even old!
In the meantime I cleaned up screw holes in the base and was actually able to reuse the original screws. One has a small hole in the bottom and the other has a slot in the bottom! I reattached it as it was originally and it's looking better now, especially with it's bottom "openable."
I'm now working on getting the parts Stan S recommended in the initial detailed post, where I wondered what the heck I bought.
Mark J.


More than likely someone turned your lock into a dummy lock, if they already opened it. bet it turns with a screwdriver. I'm starting t think dummy locks on these phones isn't a bad idea. I mean not too many locksmiths around who can actually fix these locks, and I'm sure as they retire, the key banks that may still exist will disappear, along with the knowledge on how to make those type of keys as those types of keys aren't used much, anymore.


Yes I think so. It didn't really look like a lock inside. Just three tabs with a hole in them, and what looked like a hard wire welded on. I'd have no idea how that would work. I couldn't find anything close to an exploded view of this kind of lock. I'd still like to see one.
But when I reassembled it, the key went in and it acted like a real lock at least.

UPDATE: later in this thread, I realized it was complete, and it works. Still don't know why it was opened.
Mark J.

Stan S

The pictures below are what should be in a top lock.
What's in the pictures is just a representation using parts from different manufacturers.
I just grabbed what was handy.

The back is a Western 10H.
The nose piece is a Northern 21B.
The leavers are all the same number. This would never be the case .

The number stamped on the leaver conform to the position of the slit in the leaver to its left edge.
The slit and the number conform to the depth of each cut in the key.

When the proper key is turned clockwise it moves the leavers to the right, this lets the 'gate' (attached to the bolt) slide down into the slits in the leavers. The bolt moves down and the lock opens.

If you throw the leavers in the garbage and put a coil spring on the post (part that went through the leavers), the spring will put backwards pressure on the bolt assembly when the cover is put back on the lock.
Then ,when the nose piece is turned (with anything) the bolt will slide up and down. This locks or unlocks the lock with zero security.
This is the way most of the top locks (21B, 10G, 10H and 29S) you see on Ebay are 're-keyed' to work.

10L vault locks are the same. Except they have a set of pins, adding another level of security.
The waves on the bottom surface of a 10L key conform to the code for these pins.

Throw the pins in the garbage along with the leavers, put the cover back on the lock and you're an Xspurt* Ebay

* X is an unknown quantity.
spurt is a drip under pressure.

Stan S.

Stan S

A picture is worth a thousand words.
Stan S,


Thanks Stan!
That helps tremendously. So I DO have a complete lock.
When I turn the key, I feel tension, then the case pops open. So I must have put it back together properly?
Mark J.


Stan, since you said the leaves were numbered. I would assume they would put a pile of different numbered leaves, and the number of the leave dictated the depth of cut in the key.

Stan S

The number on the leaver does tell you the depth of the cut in the key.

When I was rebuilding a lot of 10L locks, after a few hours I could look at a key and tell you the numbers of the leavers to use for all the cuts in the key. Didn't always get it exactly 100% but came close enough for the key to open and close the lock with a little resistance.

There's a trick to overcoming the resistance if the leavers aren't perfect after the lock is assembled. It requires a heavy hammer. You position the lock sitting on its serial number with the bolt out and facing up. You turn the key very slowly until you reach the point of resistance then SLAM THE TOP EDGE OF THE BOLT WITH THE HAMMER. After you do this a few times you wear away the edge of the cut in the leaver that isn't exactly right.

Anyway, in a previous post I said that I was the second best at rebuilding these locks. The best, Paul Vaverchak, always got it perfect the first time, with no tricks.

If you don't have much experience you put the leavers in the lock body one at a time. The first leaver you install is the cut in the key nearest the bow (back of the key). You hold the lock body in one hand and with the other hand you turn the key slid in the nose piece. If the first leaver matches the cut in the key the gate will fall into the slot. Then you install the second leaver and do the same thing. Eventually you will have all the leavers installed in the lock body that match the key cuts and you will be able to turn the key with the gate falling into the cuts in all the leavers. Then you put the cover on the lock body and peen the two tabs in the back of the lock. FINISHED!

That was the easy half of the story. The difficult half is installing the proper pins in the nose piece so they match the 'waves' on the lower surface of the 10L keys. A story for another time.

Automatic Electric had a huge machine that stuffed the leavers and pins in 10L locks and at the same time cut the matching keys. I was told the speed of this machine was mind boggling. All done mechanically with no computers.

Most people think the number on the key and the lock are a code, not true. The number is only the number of locks and keys that were produced. The numbers don't refer to any code.

10L locks don't look like much but I'll bet you they have a level of security that's higher than the lock on your front door.

Stan S.

Stan S

"If you don't have much experience you put the leavers in the lock body one at a time. The first leaver you install is the cut in the key nearest the bow (back of the key)".

The first leaver you put in the lock body is the first cut at the tip of the key. The last leaver is the cut nearest the bow of the key.

That's better.
Stan S.


Are all 3 slot upper housing locks keyed alike for their respective makers? Or are they different and those keys we get on ebay supposed to be a master key of sorts?